Friday, May 8, 2015

Beyond the Rim Installment 7

That evening Oorgo went out into the street for the hour of relaxation that was afforded him most days. Up one terrace of the hill there lived an old man who never left the street, living on what would be given him. In the last hour of the evening he would often be found, telling a story to the children of the village. Mairda typically accompanied Oorgo, but had retired as early as she was allowed on this evening, so Oorgo went alone. He ran with the haste with which he always moved when out of doors, this time because he hoped not to miss the beginning of the old man's tale.
He was not disappointed. How the elder kept from ever telling the same stories was the man's secret; most believed he made them up during the day while he sat, and told them in the evening, but they never contradicted one another, though the same character arose many times.
This evening the man told the story of the struggle between two of the gods, Cyllgod, the Great Queen, and a rival. Cyllgod proved the stronger, dragging her enemy to the moon and smashing him there, and that was why the moon was not smooth any more, but full of holes. A small child interrupted the man, "What did they look like, the great gods?"
"The gods can take on many appearances, or take on none at all if they prefer. In such form they fought through the space that lies betwixt us and the night's lantern, shapeless but not empty."
"But when they were on the land, and when they walked among humans. What then?"
"The green god whom our great Queen crushed often walked about in shape like a human, but either charcoal black or otherwise, when his power was strong, like a chunk of cloudy ice, ribboned in colors." The children comprehended little of this picture, but in each of their minds the imagination formed an appropriately grandiose image.
"And Cyllgod appeared as a beautiful woman. That was her principal strength, back then, that she was beautiful."
"Has that strength shrunk?" asked a child. "I saw her once, on a parade..."
The old man looked in every direction and spat, "No! Not even a little. She is most beautiful. Now children, that is the story. Our great Queen, Cyllgod, smashed her enemy with little effort and no assistance, carrying him away to the night's lantern so that we need never fear him. Now run along."
This had been a shorter story than ever. Oorgo knew Cyllgod to be great and powerful, but to learn that she was also beautiful, and even the goddess of beauty itself, his marveling at her only increased. As the children scattered, Oorgo asked quietly, "Sir?"
"What?" the old man whipped his head in the direction of the child's voice.
"The gods. Can they do anything?"
"Cyllgod the Queen can do as she pleases. She works miracles with the flick of her finger," he said, loudly, looking every way.
"Thank you, mister," he said, and tossed the old man the small brown coin he was told to give him each week. The old man heard the clink on the ground and blinked fiercely, then processed what had been said to him.
"Ah, yes, of course. I mean you're welcome. Now run along."
Oorgo bounced to his feet and scampered away as he always did. As he lurched around the turn of the terrace he heard above him a heavy clank, followed by another, like footsteps. Oorgo hastened his pace, if that were at all possible. Someone, somewhere in the village, had committed a crime, and the town golem had been awoken to track the criminal down. The golem was old, and poor at completing only its mission. It often crashed through the edges of buildings, or in zealous pursuit leapt from one terrace to another, crushing the paving stones. Still, the golem was how Cyllgod protected the village from threats.
Oorgo happily pressed through his home door and went immediately for the stairs up into the family living space. He then climbed the stairs quietly and plopped onto the bed of mountain hay on which he had always slept.

The next morning Oorgo awoke as the town gong was rung, the most peaceful of the golem's duties. The sound would ring twice, then echo off the mountains side and be heard again. Oorgo had grown accustom to waking at the first ring, and being downstairs ready to work by the last echo.
He found on the the table already a small loaf, still warm from the oven. Father always rose earlier and had loaves on the table for each. Oorgo took a deep bite into his while the final echo rang, and he heard his mother yawn loudly upstairs. Mairda was beginning to descend, looking already weary as though she had not slept, when Oorgo's second bite encountered something hard. His father never let something pollute the dough. Oorgo looked in and saw the golden edge of a coin sticking back out. Just as he opened his mouth to say something his father looked at him sternly and said, "Finish your breakfast while you carry this loaf to the Quonin house. I heard they had unexpected company arrive, and they will need a fresh loaf for the day."
Father had never returned to Oorgo a tip he had received before, nor had he ever told the boy to deliver while eating. Oorgo understood quickly what he was told to do, and only after leaving the house did he figure out why.
Visions of what he might do with that golden coin began to impress themselves on the boy's mind even as he passed down the street towards the Quonin house. A single gold coin was worth more than some of the whole orders for bread his father received; only the rich and generous Henlick could have afforded to pass on such a gift to a small boy. Henlick dealt in yeti and manticore fur, alongside the usual fur of goats, bears, and lions. The capital had a rich demand for each of these, as they were the preferred drapery of Cyllgod, and, by extension, all her most loyal, and wealthy, subjects. Even for the rich, a gold coin was worth, at the least, a small favor to a child.
Then from nowhere, a truly spurious idea struck Oorgo's mind. He knew the chance might never come, but if it did, it would be worth the saving. Tucking the coin into his little pocket, Oorgo rushed ahead to deliver the surprise loaf to the Quonin house. He knocked on the door lightly, knowing himself to be unexpected. The door was flung open by a flustered looking man, who upon seeing a fresh loaf in Oorgo's arms opened his eyes wide. Oorgo recited, "The compliments of my father, in case you were in need."
The man smiled, "Can always trust your father to pull through for a man in a pinch! Tell him his thanks will come on the next order."
Oorgo skipped away, thoughts distracted by a wonderful chance.

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